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Scott P. Richert

Pope Emeritus Benedict Returns to the Vatican

By May 3, 2013

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On the afternoon of May 2, 2013, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI departed Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace where he had been staying since his resignation on February 28, to return to the Vatican.Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI blesses the faithful from the window of Castel Gandolfo, February 28, 2013. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images) His stay at Castel Gandolfo had always been intended to be temporary; the first pope emeritus in seven centuries wanted to remove himself from the Vatican during the papal conclave to ensure that his presence would not affect the deliberations of the cardinal-electors.

Greeted at the Vatican heliport by Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, and Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Benedict's secretary of state (who is maintaining that position temporarily under Pope Francis), as well as by Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, the president of Vatican City, and several other high-ranking officials in the government of Vatican City, the Pope Emeritus was accompanied by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his longtime assistant who remains prefect of the papal household under the current pope.

From the heliport, the Pope Emeritus went directly to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery behind Saint Peter's Basilica, where he intends to spend the rest of his life in prayer and contemplation. He was met at the doorway to the monastery by Pope Francis, and Vatican Radio, in the written version of its report on Benedict's return, has a touching picture of the two popes grasping hands in friendship. (A larger version of the photo can be found here.) Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict then went to the small chapel in the monastery to pray together.

Benedict's life at Mater Ecclesiae will be quiet, accompanied only by Archbishop Gänswein and four consecrated women (not nuns, as some news sources have incorrectly reported) who will run the household. In addition to the small chapel where he will celebrate Mass and pray, the Pope Emeritus has a piano and a library stocked with the books that kept close as both cardinal and pope. As Robert Moynihan reports, upon seeing his new home, Benedict declared, "The house is comfortable, one can work well here." Benedict can also look forward to visits from his older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for whom a guest bedroom has been prepared.

Mater Ecclesiae is about a 15-minute walk from the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis has chosen to live, and I cannot help but wonder whether Francis, who enjoys walking, might frequently find himself making impromptu visits to his predecessor—something which would have been considerably harder to do had he chosen to occupy the papal apartments used by every pope since Pius X in 1903.

In any case, the presence of two popes—one retired, one reigning—in the Vatican is unprecedented. What it may mean for the future is hard to tell, but it is surely a blessing for the Catholic Church to have been served, and to continue to be served, by two such towering figures whose love for Christ shines forth in all of their words and actions.

(Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI blesses the faithful from the window of Castel Gandolfo, February 28, 2013. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

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May 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm
(1) Gemma Pereira says:

Thank you for this wonderful report. It is heartening to know that Emeritus Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is back in the Vatican. It looks like Holy Father Pope Francis prefers at least for the present, the Domus Sancte Marthae to the Papal Palace, so that his movements and availability – the need of the hour -, are not restricted by protocol. May Almighty God bless and protect our Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI!

May 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm
(2) A P O'Beachain says:

There is one Bishop of Rome, Holy Father. Benedict XV1 is Emeritus, does not retain the title Pope, is honoured for his dedicated service, humility in freely resigning the office and for his consummate scholarship and obvious holiness.

May 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm
(3) Scott P. Richert says:

A P, the Vatican has stated that Benedict’s official title is “Pope Emeritus.” I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, though I appreciate your obvious honor for the Pope Emeritus, to whom we should all be thankful for his years of service to Christ and His Church.

May 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm
(4) Joannie says:

Scott is correct on this the proper title for Benedict is the following “His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI”. This was announced back before he took the trip to Castle Gandolfo. He had shortly before that out a “Moto Proprio” that spelled all of this out. He is not just Emeritus. He is the Pope Emeritus (which means retired) and a reigning Pope Francis.

May 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm
(5) mangoteti Erua says:


My Friends, Thanks very much for the good news that intends me to give glory to God for the return of Emeritus Pope Benedict to the Vatican to help Pope Francis and all cardinals to serve the church to bring faith, hope, and charity to shines to the whole world the kingtom of God ever lasting.


May 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm
(6) Jerome says:

Great article. We are indeed blessed to have such saints guiding our Church. Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus will probably become a Doctor of the Church; I have so enjoyed those of his books that I have read; and Pope Francis is so different, yet deeply dedicated to Our Blessed Lord, as our Pope Emeritus always is in his writings. We pray for them both every time we say our Rosary. God bless them both. It is God’s Will that they are both there in Rome at this time.

May 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm
(7) Salvy says:

Two great living popes , a true gift from God.
Anyone want to venture to guess which political “leaders” are a true gift from the devil for all their lapdogs in the media, and to other fellow travelers?

May 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm
(8) Joanne Geibel says:

Being 60 years old I should be able to have a much more eloquent comment…..COOL! :0)

May 5, 2013 at 1:21 am
(9) wilson says:

“He casts down the mighty from their thrones…”
Two Popes– 200 Popes– does any Pope or Catholic pray for a ceasefire in the Middle East; Justice in Palestine or repair of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, in Japan, which, since 3/11/11, has released 400-600 pounds of plutonium nano-dust, 200 pounds, of which, would make life extinct on this planet.

May 5, 2013 at 9:40 pm
(10) Marcus says:

Wilson, I take it you are not Catholic or you would not be asking this question.

May 26, 2013 at 9:47 am
(11) Simelinkosi says:

I dont think any fuss should be taken concerning the title of the resigned Pope. Whether one says “Holy Father Pope Emeritus /just Pope Emeritus”, there is no difference. His holiness is not only attached to the office from which he has resigned. He remains holy even now.

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